Ice sheet flow with thermally activated sliding. Part I: The role of advection

Publication Year


Journal Article

Flow organization into systems of fast-moving ice streams is a well-known feature of ice sheets. Fast motion is frequently the result of sliding at the base of the ice sheet. Here, we consider how this basal sliding is first initiated as the result of changes in bed temperature. We show that an abrupt sliding onset at the melting point, with no sliding possible below that temperature, leads to rapid drawdown of cold ice and refreezing as the result of the increased temperature gradient within the ice, and demonstrate that this result holds regardless of the mechanical model used to describe the flow of ice. Using this as a motivation, we then consider the possibility of a region of ‘subtemperate sliding’ in which sliding at reduced velocities occurs in a narrow range of temperatures just below the melting point. We confirm that this prevents the rapid drawdown of ice and refreezing of the bed, and construct a simple numerical method for computing steady-state ice sheet profiles that include a subtemperate region. The stability of such an ice sheet is analysed in a companion paper.

Proceedings of the Royal Society Lon. A
Date Published
October 2019
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